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The Mind Stone: Episode 1 - Baral, Chief of Compliance

The Mind Stone: A Commander Blog For Nerds

Hello dear readers and welcome to episode 1 of the only commander podcast that's not a podcast! That's right, it's time for The Mind Stone, a twice-monthly commander/edh blog where Cam goes over some of his favorite commander decks, and dives into the thought process behind interactions, builds, and individual card picks.

Let's dive right into this first episode and get into the meat of things! If you'd like to peruse the decklist, you can do so here

Baral, Chief of Compliance is one of those cards where, when you friend slaps that commander down and starts shuffling in your pod, you think to yourself "Oh, great, it's going to be one of those games," and most of the time, you'd be right! Baral decks tend to have a reputation because of that second ability that talks about counterspells- words that induce salt in even the most battle-hardened of mages. If someone wants you to have no fun, they'll sit down at the pod with Baral, and a deck full of 20 counterspells. Nobody has their important spells resolved, and the Baral player just gets to play fun police. This list on the other hand plays only 9 counterspells, 3 of which are there for their other text entirely. This deck is not here to police, this deck is here to sling some spells.




Important Cards

High Tide + Island + Turnabout

This is your bread and butter. This is the combo that the whole deck is built around. This interaction has tons of redundancies and back-ups, but the general interaction is doubler + untapper. This is the interaction that will accelerate you into casting more huge spells (or a series of smaller spells) that lets you win the game. Here are your options:
Doublers: High Tide, Caged Sun, Extraplanar Lens, Gauntlet of Power
Untappers: Turnabout, Frantic Search, Ghostly Flicker, Snap, Time Spiral, Palinchron, Peregrine Drake

Win Conditions

What's the point of making all that mana if you're not going to spend it? Here are the important cards that will win you the game. There are a handful of different ways you can win the game (none of which result in a deterministic loop, by the way!). The one I have found myself relying on the most is Aetherflux Reservoir. With the number of cost reducers in this deck, combined with how easy it is to draw cards, it becomes trivial to cast enough spells to shoot off the entire table. Sphinx-Bone Wand is effectively the same card, but it costs more, and doesn't gain you any life to stay in the game. The final (and my personal favorite) win condition is Prosperity. Prosperity is only a win condition when all 3 opponents have fewer cards in their library than you do, but when you pull it off, the look on everyone's faces is astounding. It's such a dramatic way to win, and makes for an unforgettable EDH night.

Recursion and Tutors

This is how you're going to abuse any one particular card (most often a combo piece). You're either going to find the card you need for any given moment, or you're going to reuse a card you've cast already. The cards you're going to want to recycle are ones that untap, or ones that draw cards. 
Recursion: Metallurgic Summonings, Call to Mind, Flood of Recollection, Pull from the Deep, Archaeomancer, Mnemonic Wall
Tutors: Dizzy Spell, Muddle the Mixture, Mystical Tutor, Merchant Scroll, Fabricate
Card Draw: Brainstorm, Jace's Ingenuity, Meditate, Mystic Confluence, Opportunity, Compulsive Research, Deep Analysis, Ponder, Preordain, Treasure Cruise, Ugin's Insight

Cost Reducers

The power of Baral lies in his ability to be recast. He's cheap, and he makes your spells cheap, but the most important thing is that you have him on turn 2 always. Unfortunately, he doesn't stay alive forever. By the time you're paying 6 for Baral, he generally stops being worth the effect he provides. Having a cost reducer is powerful, especially when you need to cast multiple spells with your Aetherflux Reservoir, but there are many more copies in the deck. You'll come across them with the sheer amount of cards you'll be drawing.
Cost Reducers: Jace's Sanctum, Primal Amulet, Sapphire Medallion, Curious Homunculus (flipped)

Interaction

Here's how you're going to stay alive long enough to win. You're going to delay them from killing you with bounce spells, and you're going to counterspell their interaction with you. The interaction package in this deck is tuned to beat tokens, but you could put your own spin on it depending on what your local meta is like.
Bounce/Delay: Aetherize, Capsize, Cyclonic Rift, Echoing Truth, Mystic Confluence, Rapid Hybridization, Snap
Counterspells: Counterspell, Disdainful Stroke, Dream Fracture, Insidious Will, Muddle the Mixture, Mystic Confluence, Negate, Pact of Negation, Rewind

Quick Notes About Chard Choices

Aetherize - This card is awesome for murdering a tokens player, but I've found is lackluster elsewhere. This could easily be change for Whelming Wave, or other big blue bounce spells.
Capsize - A lot of games will play out to be you relying on 2-3 casts of this card each turn. It can really set back players who just want to play one big card at a time, and in a pinch, you can repeatedly bounce one player's lands!
Dizzy Spell - This is almost exclusively a tutor, but in a dire pinch, you can use it to save your life!
Dream Fracture - This card is great for playing politics. It's a counterspell but without all the feels-bad that could cause someone to focus you down.
Finale of Revelation - This card used to be Blue Sun's Zenith which doubled as a win condition, but I've found that this card is stronger. The first BSZ usually targets yourself anyways, so the cast of a huge Finale is comparable AND doubles at untapping a lot of your lands!
Insidious Will - I've been on the fence about this card since I started the build, but if you have any green players in your pod, this card is always going to copy a Cultivate or Kodama's Reach. Outside of that, it's just a bad counterspell, and you don't normally care about copying your own spell.
Meditate - High risk, high reward. I love this card, but you definitely have to be winning the turn you cast it.
Metallurgic Summonings - Sometimes this card generates enough tokens to have a board state that just kills someone. Usually this card is just to recycle your whole graveyard, but sometimes you can ride it to victory.
Enter the Infinite - Oh yes. This card wins the game if it resolves. Drawing your deck allows you to create an arbitrary amount of mana, and you can play Aetherflux Reservoir the rest of your cards to shoot the rest of the pod out of the game.
Extraplanar Lens - This is another one of those high risk high reward cards, because it's very easily abused if your opponents have the right sequence of cards. Be careful about over-extending with this! If it's blinked, you don't *have* to exile another land, but you may be tempted to so that  you can stay ahead of curve.

Closing Thoughts

I wish I could give a better description of the power level of this deck, but I don't think I play EDH with enough different groups to judge where this deck may sit compared to others. What I can say however, is that this deck doesn't tend to make enemies on your first sitdown. Everyone is going to look at you until their spells resolve (so you'll have to deal with that), but once they know you're not going to fun-police them they tend to start ignoring you until you win. The blue deck that doesn't counter anything makes no enemies so it seems, which gives you just enough time to win out of the blue.

Thank you all for reading, and I'll see you next episode!

Until next time, this has been Cam from The Mind Stone.